Twilight Time by Shadow

Chapter 9


Spike put down the wrench and wiped another streak of grease from the back of his wrist to his forehead, but he grinned.

Right, then. Not exactly good, but better, ey? Not bad for just a quick slap and tickle, so to speak.

Right on cue, he heard the sound of a key in the door – the front door, not the basement door, so Xander must have seen the note that Spike taped to the door – and presently Xander’s “better” shoes, all that Spike could see from his current position, appeared at the front of the car.

“Spike?” Xander’s voice was puzzled. “What’re you doing under there?”

Spike chuckled and scooted out from under the convertible.

“What’s it look like, Pet?” he said. “Fixing this bloody heap. Think I’ve got it, too. Try the key, would you?”

Xander gave him a skeptical glance, but slid into the seat and turned the ignition key. His eyebrows jumped when the engine turned over immediately, running with a nearly normal sound.

“Wow,” he said, grinning. “That’s great. I didn’t know you knew anything about auto mechanics.”

Spike shrugged, pleased.

“Don’t live 140 years without learning a thing or two,” he said negligently. “It’s not all fixed – needs some parts I couldn’t go out in the daylight to get – but I’ll go get ‘em come sundown and finish up tomorrow. So how’d the job search go?” he added, although he could tell the answer from the untroubled expression on Xander’s face.

“I got it!” Xander said, his face lighting up even more. “It’s just sort of an apprentice position, basic fetch and carry, and it’s just part-time right now – kind of a tryout sort of thing, because I’ve been fired from so many places – but if everything’s going okay, they’ll put me on full-time with benefits in a month. But I told them about all the drywall and trim work I’ve done, and they’re really short on experienced interior people, and the month will be up right about the time they start on the interior on this project, so that works out fine. And the pay’s great, best I’ve ever gotten, or at least will be when I finish out my probationary month. I’ll get a big raise then when I go full-time.” He gave Spike a worried glance. “Did you put in a word with somebody or something?”

Spike shook his head, grinning.

“Not hardly, Pet,” he said. “The owner of the new building’s kind of a friend of a friend, and I called him and got the name of the builder, that’s all. Never talked to the builder, never so much as mentioned your name.” Which was maybe bending the truth just a bit; he’d just happened to casually mention that his Consort was looking for a daytime construction job, and Spike might send him ‘round to the builder for an interview. Of course, that was bending the truth a bit, too, since Xander wasn’t his Consort . . . technically . . . yet. He didn’t know whether Lissik had done anything with that information, and he didn’t want to know.

“So . . . now I’m employed and mobile again,” Xander said, gesturing to the car, “I think that calls for a celebration.”

“Suppose it does, Pet,” Spike grinned, thinking of the surprise he had waiting for Xander – the reason why he’d left a sign on the door telling Xander to come into the warehouse building at the ground level instead of through the basement. “But right now, the state I’m in, I think that calls for a shower. C’mon.”

They walked down the stairs to the basement; as soon as they opened the door, Xander’s head shot up and he sniffed the air.

“What’s that?” he asked. “That smells like – like – “

“Go on, look,” Spike grinned, giving Xander a push in the direction of the kitchen.

Xander lifted the lid of the pot on the stove, an expression of stunned bliss on his face.

“It is! It’s chicken soup! Homemade chicken soup!” Xander turned to look at Spike, and the naked emotion in his eyes made Spike shiver. “You knew how to make chicken soup. You made chicken soup for me.”

Spike chuckled, steadying his voice.

“No trick to it, Pet,” he said. “Nice that grocery stores deliver nowadays, innit? Had the stuff cooking all morning. Still need to put in the noodles, though. Oh, and I paid the grocery boy to go past the bakery, pick up some nice fresh bread. I’ll pop it in the oven for a minute or two.”

Xander looked away, and for a moment Spike was worried. Then he saw Xander’s jaw muscles working, and a moment later he had two arms full of warm, hugging Xander.

“Thanks,” he whispered against Spike’s neck, his warm breath fanning the skin and making Spike shiver again.

“Welcome, Pet,” Spike said, trying to sound casual and realizing that he’d failed utterly. He stroked Xander’s back softly for a moment, just a moment, couldn’t look too bloody sentimental, then gently pushed the mortal away. “Getting grease all over your least-adolescent duds,” he commented.

Xander laughed a little shakily, swiping the back of his wrist hastily across his eyes.

“Boy, way to spoil a moment,” he said. “I’m starved, are you? Why don’t you go take a quick shower, I’ll do the noodles and the bread and we can eat that much sooner.”

“Works for me,” Spike said. He settled for a quick shower instead of his usual lengthy tub soak, then pulled on a silk robe and joined Xander in the kitchen. Xander had found time to change out of his interview clothes was wearing a pair of sweat pants – and, Spike could tell with no difficulty whatsoever, nothing else. For some bizarre reason, Xander’s bare feet made him look just as sexy as did the bare chest. Xander dished up bowls of soup just as Spike walked in, and his expression as his eyes swept over Spike in the robe was as appreciative as Spike’s had probably been about the sweats.

“Good timing,” Xander said, grinning before he turned to pull the warmed bread out of the oven. “The soup smells wonderful. Just like my grandma’s. Only better.” He looked up, and the expression in his eyes made Spike’s long-stilled heart threaten to beat. Pound, even. “Because you made it for me.”

Spike forced a chuckle.

“Loading that soup up with a lot of baggage before you even taste it,” he said. “Might be crap, you know. After all, it’s been more’n a century since I did it.”

“I had a taste,” Xander admitted, blushing. “I couldn’t wait.”

Just my sentiments exactly, Pet, Spike thought, eyeing the sweat pants again. Think you’d let me have a taste, hmmm? Down, Spikey. Good things come – heh heh – and so on and so forth.

Spike sat down, sniffing and smiling. He’d forgotten how much he’d loved the stuff. There’d been too many times in his career as an admittedly atrocious poet when the scraggy bits of chicken and wilted vegetables to make soup had been about the best he could afford. But he could sit there and smell it cooking and feel like a rich man, knowing how good it was going to taste. He took a spoonful. Ahhhhhh – almost as good as blood. Almost.

Xander, across the table, had his face all but buried in the bowl as he inhaled the fragrant soup, slurping rudely at the noodles. Spike grinned, enjoying the sight of his mortal lover going primal on a bowl of soup. Most people didn’t know how to enjoy a good meal. They picked away at it like polite foreplay. Xander, on the other hand, was shagging the hell out of his soup, and it was a thing of joy to behold.

Spike grabbed the loaf of bread, tore off a chunk – nicely cutting the loaf would be a sin now – and spread altogether too much butter on it, and shoved it across the table at Xander.

“Crunch, then slurp,” he advised. Xander gave him a sheepish but appreciative glance, accepted the bread and the advice, and dove back into his meal. Spike chuckled and tore off his favorite heel end of the loaf, disdaining butter in favor of the time-honored sop-up-the-soup technique.

For several minutes, the sounds of slurping, crunching and little contented whimpers were the only noises in the kitchen. At last Xander, pausing to refill his bowl, glanced uncertainly at Spike.

“Don’t you want some blood?” he asked hesitantly. “I’ll heat it up for you if you – “

Spike shook his head.

“Ate earlier,” he said briefly. He didn’t want to mention that he knew the sight and smell of the heated blood did nothing good for Xander’s appetite, and that he’d wanted the whelp to enjoy his soup-bowl trip down Memory Lane unmarred by disgust. Nor did he mention that if his post-supper plans went as he hoped, he wouldn’t want to interrupt the action to go brush his teeth.

“Oh.” Xander looked surprised. He hesitated, ladle in hand. “More?”

Spike grinned.

“Always,” he said, handing over his bowl. “Once around’s never enough of anything good, is it?” He raised one eyebrow at Xander, who blushed.

“I thought we were talking food here,” Xander mumbled, filling Spike’s bowl.

“I thought we were celebrating here,” Spike said casually, tilting his chair back, letting his robe gape strategically. “All sorts of ways to celebrate, hmmmm?”

Xander licked his lips, his pupils dilating.

“Ummm . . . what did you have in mind?”

“Oh, that’d spoil the fun, ey?” Spike chuckled. “But you did good, getting that job, and good boys get rewarded.”

“Well . . . you fixed my car and made me chicken soup, so you’re a good boy too,” Xander said weakly, licking his lips again. “Doesn’t that mean you get rewarded too?”

Spike grinned broadly. Xander had no idea just how good Spike had been, or how much he’d been up to the night before, or while Xander was gone.

“Been a long time since anybody thought of me as a good boy,” he said. “But I don’t see no reason why we can’t sort of . . . reward each other, mmm?”

“Oh boy,” Xander said, rather hoarsely. He glanced down at his bowl of soup. “Ummm . . . suddenly less hungry now.”

“Eat up,” Spike chuckled. “Gonna need your strength, Pet.”

Xander ate, although Spike could tell that his enjoyment of the soup was falling second to his anticipation of dessert. Well, fine. Just as it should be.

“So . . . I suppose I should clean this up, since you cooked,” Xander said, glancing at the pot and the empty bowls.

“Later,” Spike said firmly. He drew Xander to his feet. “Always good to work off a big dinner.”

“Oh yeah?” Xander said hoarsely. He let Spike draw him close. “What did you have in mind?”

Spike grinned, licking his lips. “Dessert,” he said simply. He drew Xander to what he privately thought of as his “old room.” Not bad, though, to have a bed just for sex. Meant that for the cost of a brief toddle across the living room, nobody had to sleep in the wet spot.

“Ummm – Spike?”

Spike turned, realizing suddenly that Xander wasn’t coming along nearly as eagerly as he’d expected – in fact, he was pretty much dragging the whelp along. He grimaced when he saw the nervousness in Xander’s eyes, even though there was a pretty good high-rise going up in Xander’s sweat pants. He forced himself to stop, calm down a little.

“’S all right, Pet,” Spike said as gently as he could. “Moving too fast?”

“No – um – “ Xander squirmed, his eyes pleading for understanding. “Just – “

“Shhh, Pet, I know,” Spike soothed. “Come on, we’ll have a bit of a lie down, snuggle up and just wait and see what comes up, eh?” He grinned wickedly.

“Ouch,” Xander complained at the pun, but he was grinning now too, and he followed Spike a great deal less reluctantly into the bedroom, stretching out on the black satin sheets. Spike froze, shivering unaccountably.

“What?” Xander asked hesitantly.

“Can I – “ Spike cut himself off before he could beg Xander to lose the sweats. Too fast, too fast. “Nothing, Pet. You’re just a lovely sight, is all.”

Xander flushed, the color making him even more beautiful.

“Really?” he asked almost in a whisper.

“Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in – well, a bloody long time,” Spike murmured, shaking his head. “You on my sheets. Lovely.”

“Oh.” Just that, but Xander looked inordinately pleased, and before Spike could say or do anything more, Xander had untied the drawstring of his sweat pants and was pushing the fleece down over his hips. The mortal kicked the garment away, then lay back, blushing but achingly aroused, his eyes on Spike, watching Spike watching him.

“Oh, luv,” Spike whispered, swallowing hard. “Oh, luv. Now I know why Angelus hired that bloody painter.”

“Painter?” Xander murmured, still watching Spike hungrily. His hand drifted over his chest, just brushing over his nipples.

“Angelus hired a painter once to do me portrait,” Spike said, his eyes riveted on the glorious spectacle of Xander on his bed. “Had ‘im do me in just my nightshirt. Angelus said – “ Speech suddenly deserted him as Xander’s fingertips ghosted up his erection, barely teasing the length.

“Angelus said?” Xander prompted in a low, unsteady voice.

“Angelus said I’d last forever, might even be his forever,” Spike said hoarsely, “but the beauty of that perfect moment would be gone unless he did something to keep it.”

Xander smiled shyly, reaching lower to trace his fingertips over his balls.

“Don’t think you can find a portrait artist for that sort of thing anymore,” he said. “Maybe in San Francisco or something.”

Spike swallowed hard again. His mouth had gone dry. Then he remembered the Polaroid camera in his dresser drawer. He pulled it out almost frantically, holding it up.

“May I? Please?” he asked, amazed to hear that begging tone coming out of his mouth.

A new flush suffused Xander’s face and body, and to Spike’s amazement, his erection throbbed an impossible degree harder.

“Okay,” Xander barely whispered, shocking the hell out of the vampire, who had fully expected immediate denial, if not embarrassed retreat.

It took Spike forever to get the camera ready because his hands were shaking so badly. At last, however, the bloody thing was set up, and he shot the first picture. Not even waiting to see how it came out, he shot another, and another, and another, clicking the button time after time until the film pack was empty. And to his amazement Xander seemed as turned on by it as he was, caressing himself boldly, writhing across the black sheets to show off his sleek body to best advantage. Spike cursed the fact that he was out of film and plotted to buy out the drug store, the grocery store and the department store as soon as the sun went down, but that didn’t help him now.

“Are you just gonna look?” Xander asked almost innocently, not shy or reluctant anymore, oh no; he looked positively drunk on Spike’s visual worship.

“Oh, no, Pet,” Spike said, laying the camera and the developing photos aside and crawling onto the bed, flinging his robe haphazardly behind him. “Had my look. Now I want to get my hands dirty, as it were.”

“Your hands?” Xander repeated, panting, his eyes so dilated that they looked black.

“Or better yet, my mouth,” Spike said, just before he pounced.

He’d been more or less exaggerating; his fangs wanted to come down so badly that he didn’t dare suck Xander. But he could lick, and he did, worshipping the throbbing length with lips and tongue, caressing Xander’s thighs and belly and chest as he savored that wonderful salt-sweet flavor. Xander was moaning nonstop, his hips thrusting up against Spike’s mouth, and Spike was as drunk on those moans as he might be on blood. Xander gave one last hoarse scream, his back arching like a bow, and Spike closed his lips carefully over the head of Xander’s cock to catch the offering, continuing his slow licks and caresses until Xander collapsed limply back to the bed.

Xander looked so peaceful, so sweetly sated that Spike didn’t have the heart to bother him; he resigned himself to yet another wank and took his cock in hand, only to freeze as warm fingers slid over his own. He glanced up, startled, to meet Xander’s drowsy eyes.

“May I?” Xander murmured, and Spike nodded mutely, lying back and letting Xander figure it out for himself. The whelp figured it out bloody fast, in fact – of course, he was a teenage boy, he’d probably had a thousand wanks in the last year alone. But the first touch of moist lips sent Spike almost through the roof with arousal and surprise, and from there it was one long howling drop over the edge of the cliff, thankfully in Xander’s hand because if the whelp had actually sucked him in, there was no chance Spike would’ve had the willpower to push him off.

And then it was over, all over but for the cuddling bit, and that was unexpectedly nice too. And drowsing in his mortal lover’s arms, Spike, who’d been dead for a hundred twenty years, thought idly that he’d never ever felt so alive.

Spike thought Xander had nodded off, but a moment later warm fingers carded through his hair.

“Spike?” Xander said softly.

“Yeah, Pet?” Spike personally had never been much for talk after shagging, but Dru had. And judging from the fact that the whelp’s mouth ran nonstop the rest of the time, he’d pretty well resigned himself to the fact that Xander would likely be a post-fuck talker too.

“Thanks,” Xander said quietly. “For the soup and bread and my car. And, um, for the pictures.”

Spike shifted around so he was half-lying on Xander’s chest, so he could see the mortal’s face. He smiled.

“Surprised me, that,” he said. “Didn’t expect you to have such a dishy kink, luv. Like it, though.” He traced the beautiful curve of Xander’s lip with his fingertip. “Suppose I’ll have to buy a proper camera. Can’t waste a luscious perversion like that.”

Xander turned beet red.

“Um, Spike? A Polaroid’s one thing. But a regular camera, the film’s got to be, you know, developed. And I don’t think film development places do that kind of pictures.”

Spike grinned.

“I know somebody,” he said. “He’ll do ‘em. Won’t even keep a set for himself – at least if I threaten to suck his eyeballs out if he does.”

“Hey, that’s not fair,” Xander protested. “I can’t take pictures of you.”

Spike shrugged.

“Can if you want,” he said.

“I thought vampires didn’t photograph.” Xander thought it over. “In fact, I know vampires don’t photograph.”

Spike smirked.

“Can if you get properly enchanted film,” he said smugly. “It’ll cost, but I can live with it. Fair’s fair, after all.” He thought of posing for Xander, displaying himself wantonly for Xander’s pleasure, and shivered, feeling a pang of renewed arousal. Then he added, “Ummm, Pet, that’s our secret, got it?”

“As in, no telling the Slayer about vamp photography?” Xander guessed.

“As in,” Spike agreed, a little worriedly. He’d spoken without thinking, but it wouldn’t do for the Slayer or the Watchers council to get hold of the secret to photographing vampires. Or the Initiative.

Xander grinned slowly.

“I’ll keep quiet,” he said. “But it’ll cost you.” The renewed heat in his eyes – Bless teenagers and their hormones! – told Spike just what kind of payment he had in mind.

“Blackmail?” Spike said, grinning delightedly. “Why, Pet, I’m amazed. Looks like I’m rubbing off on you.”

Xander licked his lips and squirmed, urging Spike to move closer.

“Funny you should say that,” Xander said huskily. “Because that’s kind of what I had in mind . . . “

Spike chuckled, slid lingeringly up Xander’s body, and set out to pay the first installment of his bribe.




Chapter 10


Spike took a break after installing the new starter, tightening the brakes and replacing the alternator, distributor, plugs, plug wires and valve cover gasket. The car wasn’t done yet, not by a long shot, but everything that might imminently break down was fixed. Good thing, too, because auto repairs had taken up all morning and a bit of the afternoon, and Xander would be home in a couple of hours, and Spike still had phone calls to make.

The first one was easy. The secretary answered on the second ring.

“Law Firm of Brumwalt & Keppelhorn,” she said. “How may I help you?”

“Let me talk to B, Pet,” Spike told her. “Tell ‘im it’s William.”

“Just a moment, please.” It was, in fact, a very brief moment before Spike heard the Thrilk demon’s smooth voice.

“Brumwalt,” he said. “Good afternoon, sir. Ready for an update on your case?”

“Yeah.” Spike tossed a towel over the chair so he wouldn’t get motor oil on it, then made himself comfortable. “What’d you think?”

“Easier than finding fur on a werewolf. I forwarded your offer via courier first thing this morning.” Brumwalt chuckled. “Do you actually know the mortal’s blood and the father’s fingerprints are on the pool cue and the belt?”

“Blood, yes,” Spike said, shrugging. He could smell it when he’d stolen the cue and the belt – handy thing, having a pre-existing invite to the house. He’d had no difficulty picking out the particular pool cue; it was still lying across the pool table, and even if it had been on the rack, the scent of Xander’s blood had been plain on it. The smell of the father’s boozy sweat had been equally plain, but he couldn’t vouch for fingerprints. If he’d wanted to bother, he could’ve had plenty more evidence – the pool table, for example, and the carpet nearby. “Doesn’t matter, does it? What matters is he thinks we know for a fact.”

“True. And the photographs you sent are excellent under the circumstances. I have a feeling we’ll have the settlement on my desk tomorrow, possibly tonight. Although I think your demand should’ve been higher, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.”

“That was fast,” Spike said, ignoring the last statement.

“I gave it top priority, of course, Master Spike. I’ll call the attorney this afternoon and give him a push, say it’s a short-time-only offer. As soon as I have a settlement, I’ll have a messenger bring it over, if you wish.”

“Yeah, that’ll do,” Spike said, grinning.

Spike wasn’t nearly as eager to make the second call. He stalled for a long time, pacing up and down, deliberating. He’d talked himself into it – and out of it – a dozen times before he finally picked up the phone, muttering, “Oh, bloody hell,” and dialed. It took several rings before it was answered.

“Angel Investigations, Cordelia speaking.”

“Ummm, yeah. Can I speak to Angel, please.”

Cordelia sounded bored, which meant, Spike supposed, that she hadn’t recognized his voice.

“Who should I say?”

“Tell him William Barstow, please.”

“Hold on.”

A moment later Cordelia came back on.

“I’m switching you to his phone,” she said. “If I can figure this thing out. If you get cut off, call back, okay?”

“Right.” Spike braced himself. A moment and several clicks later, one quiet word.

“Will.”

That tone said it all. Flat, emotionless, not angry. He didn’t even merit anger. Right. State your business and bugger off.

“Won’t keep you,” he said, just as quietly. “I want my stuff, the stuff you had stored – if you haven’t done something with it, I mean. And access to my accounts.”

A long pause.

“You’ve got a hell of a nerve, Will,” Angel said in that same measured tone. “Giles tells me you’re living in my building.”

“Yeah, well – “ Spike grimaced. “If I had the money, I’d buy it off you. Look, Angel, I don’t care what you think of me – “

“Yes, you do.”

That flat, matter-of-fact tone again. Spike swallowed, closing his eyes briefly.

“All right, I do,” he admitted. “But this isn’t about me. It’s for Xander.”

“Xander?” This time Angel’s tone changed, sharpened. “Xander Harris? What about him? Is he all right?”

“He’s all right – now,” Spike said hesitantly. How much should he tell Angel? No matter what subset of the truth he told, Angel would know he was holding back. “Look, Angel, it’s not my secret to tell. Long and short of it is, he’s living here, he’s broke and unemployed, and I need to pay a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?” Now Angel’s voice was really sharp. “Who?”

Spike sighed.

“Brumwalt,” he admitted. Letting Angel find out that he’d hired Brumwalt told Angel that Spike thought the matter was urgent enough to pay the Thrilk demon’s exorbitant fees – but aboveboard enough to be handled through the human judicial system.

Another long silence. When Angel spoke, his voice had softened slightly. Not much, but enough to let Spike know that forgiveness, while still only a remote possibility, wasn’t completely out of the question.

“Your belongings are at Millenium Self Storage in Sunnydale,” he said. “I’ll FedEx everything you need for your accounts, plus the key card to the storage unit. You’ll have them tomorrow before sunset.”

Spike swallowed.

“Thanks,” he said quietly. “Angel, I – “

“Shut up, Spike,” Angel said, his voice hard again. “I don’t want to hear it. And I heard about the chip. Don’t show up on my doorstep expecting my help with that.”

Spike grinned. The very fact that Angel was giving him this lecture – well, it was good enough for him.

“Thanks,” Spike said again.

“Fuck you, Will,” Angel said coldly.

“Could happen,” Spike said cheerfully, hanging up on Angel. Suddenly the day seemed much nicer, darker and less sun-drenched, and who knew, maybe they’d even get a storm later on.

Right; enough serious business for one day. Spike rewarded himself with a lengthy tub bath. He’d timed it pretty precisely; Xander went in to work early, at 6:30, and he got off early too, at 3:30. It wasn’t all that far, but since Spike had been working on the car, he’d have to walk home, which would put him coming in the door right about –

“Spike?”

“In here, Pet,” Spike called back, smirking. He’d left the bathroom door open on purpose. This time, however, Xander apparently had no compunctions about peeking in. His eyebrows shot up when he saw Spike in the tub.

“You and that tub,” Xander said, grinning. “And here I was hoping for a shower. I’m grimy.”

“Achy too, I’ll wager,” Spike said sympathetically, noting Xander’s stiff posture. “Come on and join me, eh, Pet? Nice hot soak’ll do wonders, and I’ll trot out the liniment after, give you a good rub.”

“I’m sure there was a double entendre in there somewhere,” Xander said, sighing, “but I’m too tired to care. Make room, I’m coming in.”

Spike drained out a little of the water and added more hot water, scooted back and made room for Xander to sit down between his legs, his back to the vampire. Spike coaxed Xander to sit back against his chest, and he picked up the sponge, washing Xander slowly.

“Mmmmm, that feels good,” Xander sighed, laying his head back against Spike’s shoulder, his eyes closed. Spike tried resolutely to ignore the beautiful length of Xander’s neck, bared and arched by his position. Definitely a vampiric ‘take me, I’m yours’ pose. Of course, Xander didn’t know that.

“Warm,” Xander said sleepily, confusing the hell out of Spike.

“What, the bath?” Spike asked, momentarily distracted from his inspection of Xander’s neck.

“No, you,” Xander murmured. “First time I’ve ever touched a warm vampire.”

“Oh.” Spike grinned. “Like that, do you?”

Xander considered briefly.

“Nope,” he said at last, shaking his head.

“No?” Spike raised his eyebrows. “Thought you’d like it.”

Xander opened his eyes slightly, turning his head to look at Spike.

“Nope,” he said again, shyly. “Because . . . it doesn’t feel like you.”

Touched, Spike kissed the side of Xander’s throat chastely, sternly denying the temptation to nibble just a bit.

“Well, it is me, or used to be, anyway,” he said thoughtfully. “I mean, I wasn’t always a vampire, y’know.”

“Yeah, Buffy told us about it,” Xander said hesitantly. “She said you were a poet, you know, before.”

“Mmm.” Spike waggled his hand. “Sort of. Wasn’t a very good poet, I’ve got to admit.”

Xander half turned, looking at Spike over his shoulder.

“And your hair wasn’t – “ He blushed. “I mean – “

“You mean is it a bottle job?” Spike smirked. “Yep, ‘fraid so.”

“Why?” Xander asked directly. “I mean, why bleach your hair like that?”

Spike shrugged.

“Dunno, Pet,” he said. “Guess I just wanted to look different. Why, don’t you like it?” To his disgust, he actually cared.

Xander grinned.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “The whole vampire punk leather look works for you. Kind of goes with the whole attitude thing.” Then he raised his eyebrows. “But you don’t sound much like a poet.”

Spike shrugged uncomfortably.

“Guess not.”

“Is that on purpose too?” Xander asked, with one of those uncanny flashes of insight that always unnerved Spike.

“Guess so,” Spike said shortly.

Xander frowned slightly, then turned back around and sat back against Spike again.

“Sore subject, huh?” he said quietly.

Spike sighed. If there was one person in Sunnydale who undoubtedly understood peer ridicule, it was Xander Harris.

“Got tired of people sneering at me, I guess,” he said. “Just wanted to be somebody else. Somebody respected, feared. After all, a nancy-boy poet don’t make much of a vampire. Hanging about with Angelus, you learned to toughen up fast. Or else.”

“Dru didn’t,” Xander pointed out, purring as Spike ran the sponge over his skin.

“Dru was mad,” Spike said, chuckling. “And that amused Angelus. Amusing Angelus and Darla was almost as good as impressing them. Problem is, I’d been amusing people too long. Didn’t want to go that route anymore. ‘Sides, Dru had visions – real visions, I mean, scattered in with all her wonky imaginings. A few times those visions saved us. So Angelus and even Darla respected her for that, a bit.” Spike finished washing Xander. “Ready to get out? I’m wrinkling up. Got a TV dinner in the oven for you.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

Spike enjoyed this era almost as much as he enjoyed the unfamiliar sensation of having a male roommate with whom he stood on fairly equal ground. They could lounge around in boxers, with (Spike) or without (Xander) a robe, eat TV dinners at the kitchen table with their feet up on the chairs across from them, and Xander didn’t make a fuss if Spike put little marshmallows in his cup of blood. Spike sipped sweet blood, picked at a piece of Swanson’s fried chicken, and stared at a mostly-naked Xander, deeply content.

“Spike?” Xander glanced at him, caught Spike ogling him, and grinned even as he blushed. “Would you – tell me about, you know, before you got vamped?”

Spike grimaced. He didn’t like to think much about his mortal life, probably because there weren’t many good memories. Angel might wax nostalgic about his breathing days, but Spike thought his undeath was a vast improvement over his life.

“If you want,” he said, forcing a casual tone. “Nothing much to tell, really. At least nothing interesting or nice.”

“I’d like to know,” Xander said, gazing down into his TV dinner as if it vastly interested him. “I mean, if you don’t mind. All we ever heard from Buffy was, you know, the ‘relevant to Slayers’ part.”

Spike shrugged and fetched himself a bottle of stout from the refrigerator. He glanced at Xander, raising his eyebrows, and received a nod. He opened both bottles and pushed one over to Xander, sitting back down.

“Never knew my father,” Spike said without preamble. “Mum said it was William Barstow, even named me for ‘im, but I doubt it. She just said that ‘cause she’d been his mistress for a year when she got her belly up, and he had money and kept her in a little flat of her own, and the idea that I was his meant he’d do the right thing and take care of us. Didn’t look nothing like him, me, but he didn’t make nothing of it, probably ‘cause Mum might make a scandal with his wife. She was a real looker, Mum was, and that was enough to get her by most times. She’d traded up to Barstow from a solicitor who probably had as much money but wanted more of her time. Barstow paid for the flat, gave her money for food and nice clothes and stuff for me later on, and only bothered her once a week or so. Best of all, he put me in public school, which got me out of Mum’s way most of the year. And that suited Mum too, ‘cause there was lots of things Barstow didn’t know nothing about.”

Xander nodded, his eyes on Spike’s, but said nothing.

“Mum had some bad habits,” Spike said, shrugging. “Champagne and soda was the genteel one – all the ladies did that. Cocaine too. Got to remember, in those days you could nip down to the chemist’s for all the cocaine you might want. Absinthe, that was fashionable, even. Nobody thought nothing of it. Opium, though, that was the secret one. Opium was a poor man’s vice. Stank of wharves and gutters and Chinese sailors. And it cost, too. Barstow never knew that most of the money he gave Mum went into her pipe.

“And there was Mum’s other addiction. Men. She wasn’t nearly as particular as she could’ve been. Never met a kid with so many ‘uncles’ as I had. New one every night, most times. She weren’t exactly a whore ‘cause she didn’t mostly get money, just gifts and trinkets and the like. If there was something worth selling, she’d have me sell it, and that’s when I could put back a shilling or two for food, if I was lucky. Mum didn’t care much for food if her pipe was full. Odd life, it was – sleeping on silken sheets with an empty belly most nights, listening to Mum and her latest gent, staying out of the way as best I could. Reading was my escape, mostly.

“Then school. Got to remember, what we called public school is what you Yanks’d call a private school, a live-in boys’ school. Only these days no school in America could get by with the likes of what went on in our public schools. Children, even rich men’s children, were basically property in those days. Schools were there to turn out presentable little lordlings by whatever means worked fastest and easiest. A headmaster could bugger a pupil or flog ‘im or horsewhip ‘im, came to that. Bigger pupils beat the smaller ones, or buggered ‘em, or both. Rather like a pack of vampires,” Spike said, surprised at the realization. “The tough got tougher, and the weak got eaten up.”

Spike nearly jumped out of his skin at the unexpected sensation of warm fingers clasping his. He glanced up, startled, and met the warm brown of Xander’s eyes. Xander didn’t ask, but Spike felt the silent question anyway.

“Oh, I was a bit of a nancy-boy in those days,” Spike said, grimacing. “Daydreamy and thin and quiet. So I qualified as weak. It pretty much got around the school that I was a bastard, too, and that didn’t help none. I was too spineless to make trouble, so the headmasters left me more or less alone – a few canings and the like, but nothing worse – but that just made me all the more target for the other boys. Wasn’t a nice time, we’ll just leave it at that. I used to dream about being the biggest and baddest of the lot, tough enough to make ‘em all sorry they ever messed with me, but it was just a dream.”

Xander nodded quietly. Spike didn’t know what he’d do if he saw pity in those brown eyes, but thankfully there was none, only understanding.

“Mum died before I finished,” Spike said indifferently. “Dunno if it was the opium finally got ‘er or what; I just got a letter at school from Barstow. He paid up till the end of term, got me a job as a junior clerk in a solicitor’s office, and I was on me own after that. So I scraped by, or nearly, and wrote bad poems, and one day I saw a beautiful lady named Cecily and fell head over heels like a right dimwit, and you know the rest.”

Xander didn’t press for more details; he simply got up, pulled out another bottle of stout, opened it, and placed it in Spike’s hand to replace the empty bottle there.

“That’s sad,” Xander said. “I mean, you know, that you hated who you were so badly that you kind of became your own alter ego.”

Spike shrugged uncomfortably.

“Well, Pet, I’m happier now than ever I was then, so guess I did something right,” he said. “Never seemed to have a lark back then.” He grinned. “Never seemed to get my end down, either. Can’t say that was ever a problem after I met Dru. Until lately, that is.”

“Hey, speaking of that – “ Xander gave him a sly look. “I seem to remember something about liniment and rubdowns.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. For a moment he thought Xander was just trying to cheer him up after his maudlin little trip down memory lane, but Xander’s eyes showed more than a casual interest. Love those teenage hormones.

“Come to think of it, I do seem to recall something about that myself,” Spike said, grinning. “You up to collecting?”

“Oh . . . I think so,” Xander said, grinning back. Spike led the way to the bedroom, and Xander dropped his boxers with suspiciously teasing slowness, giving Spike a sultry look over his shoulder as he stretched out on his belly on the black sheets.

Spike licked his lips, glancing at his latest acquisition on the nightstand – a digital camera. As soon as he got access to his accounts, he’d buy a computer and have Red show him how to work the bloody thing. In the meantime, though –

“Can I take a pic, luv?” he asked.

Xander chuckled.

“You and your pictures,” he said good-naturedly. “Haven’t you got everything already?”

“That was on the Polaroid,” Spike argued. “’Sides, I only got the front that time.” He didn’t say that he’d wanted to wait until the bruises had faded from Xander’s back and arse. After the few small doses of Spike’s blood (and possibly some help from the liniment, who knew?), the bruising was gone now, and Xander made an image of unequalled beauty against the black sheets. Taking Xander’s lack of denial as good enough, he grabbed the camera, took a moment to figure it out, and shot several pictures. Xander grinned saucily over his shoulder and struck several poses, and after filling up the camera’s memory with photos, Spike hastily put the camera down, pulled his boxers off, and grabbed the liniment.

“Tell me where it hurts,” he suggested, straddling Xander’s hips and rubbing the liniment over the back of Xander’s neck and shoulders.

“Uh-uh,” Xander negated, sighing as Spike’s fingers dug into his muscles.

“No?” Spike said. “Why not?”

“’Cause I want you to rub – uhhhhh! That’s grrrrreat! – everywhere.”

Spike grinned.

“Everywhere?” he said suggestively.

“Um – “ Spike felt a sudden nervous tension in the muscles under him. “How about I give you a provisional ‘everywhere’ with option to veto?”

“Works for me, Pet,” Spike said easily. Silently, however, he promised himself he was damned well at least going to get privacy for a wank today, if Xander didn’t feel up to anything more. His bollocks couldn’t take much more of this halfway-there crap.

“I don’t mean to tease,” Xander said suddenly, apropos of nothing, and Spike paused momentarily. Damn. He’d forgotten that just as the growing bond between them allowed Spike a kind of insight into Xander’s feelings, it gave Xander a similar hotline to Spike’s feelings.

“’S all right, Pet,” Spike said, working his way down Xander’s back. “You’re doing all right. I’ve got by for months now on less.”

Then he paused again, holding back his game face with difficulty. He’d been distracted by Xander’s naked flesh under his hands, by the gorgeous sight of that ambrosial body. Those distractions had kept him from noticing what the new lack of bruises should have revealed immediately. What his sensitive fingers had only just discovered.

Scars.

He should have expected them, he supposed. He’d never deluded himself that this latest beating was the only one to draw blood; he doubted this last beating was even the worst Xander had ever had, although he hadn’t asked. But the slender, near-invisible scars under his fingers bore mute testimony to the severity of what Xander had suffered.

“What?” Xander said, raising his head slightly.

“Nothing,” Spike said hurriedly, resuming his massage.

There was a long moment of silence.

“They don’t show much, do they?” Xander asked quietly.

Spike sighed silently.

“Don’t show at all, Pet,” he said. “Didn’t even notice ‘em until now.”

“Anya noticed them,” Xander said, almost idly. “She never asked how I got ‘em.”

Spike bent down and traced his tongue up one long seam. Xander shivered.

“Wish I could heal these,” Spike murmured. “Can’t, though. Here, turn over a minute, Pet.”

Xander rolled over, gazing at Spike quizzically.

“See this?” Spike said, brushing his fingertip over the scar that split his eyebrow. “Got that fighting the Slayer in China during the Boxer rebellion. Damn good fight. Damn good. One of the best fights of me life. Got her, too.”

Xander squirmed.

“Um, I’d say congratulations, but . . . “

Spike smirked.

“Never mind, Pet, I know we don’t see eye to eye on this one. That’s not the point. Point is, some scars are like a trophy. A mark that shows you survived. That you won. Just a reminder every day that you were tougher than whatever made those scars. Yours are like that. They’re there to remind you that you survived, you got away. That whatever your dad thought of you, you’re tough enough to kill a Vorgost. That you can live how you please and fuck who you please and they can’t do a damn thing about it.”

“They’re trying,” Xander said uncertainly.

“And they’ll fail,” Spike said smugly. “Just you wait.”

Xander blinked.

“How do you know?” he said in a small voice.

Spike grinned.

“Told you I’d see to it,” he said. “Who’s the Big Bad, eh? You think your dad’s got anything on William the Bloody, eh?”

“Well – “ Xander smiled slowly. “There is that. I suppose there’s something to be said for having the baddest, toughest roommate in Sunnydale.”

“Roommate?” Spike said, raising one eyebrow.

“Uh – boyfriend?” Xander suggested hesitantly.

Spike considered.

“All right, that’ll do,” he conceded. “Now stop worrying about that piece of shit that put your mum’s belly up, shut your mouth, and close your eyes.”

“Huh?” Xander frowned slightly.

“Close your eyes,” Spike repeated, grabbing the jar of liniment again, “and enjoy.”

Truth to tell, Spike probably enjoyed these massages as much as Xander did. He took full advantage of the opportunity to map out Xander’s body, find all the sweet spots, where and how Xander best liked to be touched. Spike found it both magical and infuriating to see Xander discover these pleasures of his own body too: Magical, because Xander was such an innate hedonist, and Spike so loved those little purring moans Xander made when Spike showed him that wonderful place right behind his scrotum or the amazing sensitivity of the thin skin on the backs of his knees; infuriating because despite all her millenia of experience, Anya the ex-vengeance-demon had, during all her time with Xander, apparently been a hell of a lot more interested in exploring her own erogenous zones than his.

Spike went over Xander’s back again, making sure all the aching muscles were soothed and relaxed. The liniment made his hands feel warm and tingly without burning like some liniment he’d known, and that gave him an idea. At last he rolled Xander over again, straddling his thighs once more, shivering as Xander stretched, grinning with sleepy arousal.

“Somehow I don’t think you have a massage in mind anymore,” the mortal chuckled. His own erection testified that he wasn’t averse to the idea.

“On the contrary, Pet,” Spike smirked. “I plan to give you a rub you’ll never forget.”

He scooped a dab of liniment out of the jar and rubbed it over his own erection first, gasping at the tingling warmth that flowed over his aching flesh. Scooting forward just a bit, just far enough, he scooped out another dollop and liberally anointed Xander’s cock, grinning at the gasp and lurching thrust of Xander’s hips. Immediately Spike gathered both slippery lengths together, making a liniment-greased tunnel of both his hands, and rubbed up and then down, just once.

Xander cried out, shuddering, and Spike echoed his cry as the pleasure of his touch seemed magnified a hundredfold, thousandfold, by the heat and sensitivity the liniment created. He pumped them both together, slowly, drawing out the pleasure as long as he could.

They were both tired – Xander had put in a hard day of construction work, and for Spike this was the middle of his “night” – both needing and wanting the relief of climax more than anything else, so Spike didn’t try to draw it out too long. When he felt Xander’s body tensing, his balls drawing up tight against his body, he intensified his stroke, rubbing the liniment over the drooling heads of both erections. Xander howled, threw his head back, and came, and the sudden slickness of Xander’s hot semen was all Spike needed to lose control, slide into game face and join Xander in climax. Burning for the taste of blood, his fangs aching to slide into flesh, Spike bit savagely into his own lower lip as he pumped out the last delicious thrusts of his pleasure over Xander’s belly, then slumped limply over the mortal’s chest, shaking in the aftermath.

Spike was dimly aware of warm hands moving him over gently, warm dampness cleaning his skin. Warm lips covered his and he opened to them, welcoming the probing tongue that explored his mouth.

Xander drew back, and Spike grinned lazily up into the warm brown eyes. Xander blushed but grinned back.

“You bit yourself again,” he said, one finger tracing Spike’s lower lip.

Spike shrugged.

“Happens,” he said. “You all right, then?”

“Uh-huh.” Xander’s blush deepened. “Think we can get the recipe from Willow for that liniment?”

Spike snickered.

“Oh, I’ll get it, Pet,” he said. “Or you will. Hopefully lots and lots.”

Xander grinned again, then yawned.

“Tired.”

“So’m I, Pet,” Spike said. He scooted over on the bed, feeling the sheets. A bit damp with Xander’s sweat, but he didn’t mind that. “Come on, have a bit of a lie down. We’ve got to work out some schedule where we can spend some time, other than you up all night or me up all day, eh?”

“Tomorrow’s Friday,” Xander murmured sleepily against Spike’s shoulder. “Then there’s the whole weekend.”

Spike groaned something he hoped Xander would take as agreement.

“ . . . can take your car tomorrow,” he muttered as he slid into sleep. “Should get you there and home now, at least . . . “

Xander sighed, smiled and closed his eyes.

“Like a man who’s good with his hands,” he breathed, ending on a snore.

If Spike had been awake to hear it, he’d have heartily agreed.




Chapter 11


Friday was a beautiful day by Spike’s standards – dark, gloomy, rainy. A little frustrating, too, because under normal circumstances he’d have taken advantage of the weather to go outside, maybe even wander down by the construction site where Xander was working on the chance that he’d get a glance of the whelp all sweaty with his shirt off. Or maybe drop in at the Magic Shop and pester Giles, demand some more blood packets or money. But he was trapped at home waiting for the packet from Angel and news from Brumwalt.

To his surprise he didn’t have to wait all day for either. A FedEx deliveryman brought the thick envelope from Angel just before noon, and a second packet arrived by courier from Brumwalt only a few minutes later. He tore into both eagerly.

How Angel had managed to get Spike’s bank account switched over from Angel’s name to his and have checks printed and a debit card issued so quickly, Spike neither knew nor cared. He was pleased to note the balances on the accounts – more than he’d thought, quite a bit more. Then he grimaced. Having to admit that Angel had been right about the whole investment thing almost spoiled the fun of being rich. And if he ever managed to get back on Angel’s good side again, he’d probably hear about it for the next decade, too.

The packet from Brumwalt was unadulterated good news. Spike glanced briefly through it, sent one of his new checks back via the same courier, and set the packet aside for Xander to look at later. Hmmm, this called for a celebration dinner, and he knew just the place. He made a quick call to Leng Chi, then cheerfully tore through Xander’s wardrobe, tossing clothes in piles.

“Goodwill, Goodwill, Goodwill – ugh, bloody hell, rag bag, I wouldn’t wish that on the homeless. Goodwill, Goodwill – oh, shit, stake me now before I have to look at that thing again. Trash, couldn’t stand to clean the loo with it. Trash, trash, Goodwill – “

The “keep” pile was pretty damned small and consisted mostly of jeans and a few sweaters Xander had bought for himself or Willow had bought him. Xander’s closet and dresser were almost empty when Spike replaced the “keepers”, but neither that nor his unapproved wardrobe-pruning troubled Spike in the slightest. He laid out Xander’s interview clothes – still pathetic, but less pathetic than the rest – for dinner. He was just stuffing the last of the Goodwill pile into a big trash bag when he was startled by the sound of a key in the lock.

Before he had time to become alarmed, Xander’s familiar voice called, “Spike?”

“Yeah, in here, Pet,” Spike said, hurrying out to the living room. “You all right?”

Xander looked at him quizzically. “Fine. Why?”

“Well, you’re home early.” Spike ran a hand through his hair embarrassedly, regretting that worried tone that had slipped out.

“It’s raining,” Xander said patiently. “Hard. The foreman sent us all home for the day.” His eyes flickered past Spike. “Um, Spike? What were you doing in my room, and why are there trash bags all over the place?”

“Just getting rid of some of those nasty shirts, Pet,” Spike said cheerfully. “Come on, have a bit of lunch, unless you’ve eaten?”

“No, we were hurrying to get everything covered up,” Xander said, allowing Spike to draw him into the kitchen, although he glanced back at his room worriedly. “Um, Spike? I don’t get my first paycheck for another week, and I’ve got to wear something, you know.”

Spike smirked.

“Not if you ask me,” he said. “Look, don’t worry about it right now, just eat your lunch and we’ll talk after.”

He fried Xander a hamburger but drew the line at frozen french fries – “Maybe you Yanks call those chips, but I’m not having ‘em here” – and poured Xander’s daily dose of Spiked V-8.

“That’s it?” Xander complained. “One hamburger?”

Spike grinned smugly. “We’ve got dinner plans at five. Didn’t know you’d be home early, did I?”

“Dinner plans?” Xander glanced at the stove, empty but for the hamburger frying pan. “Oh, did Giles want us over there?”

“Nope, and we aren’t going if he does,” Spike chuckled. “Dinner plans, Pet, as in going out. Reservations. Celebration dinner.”

Xander finished the last bite of his hamburger.

“Okaaaaay . . . and we’re celebrating what?” he asked anxiously.

“C’mon in and sit down and I’ll show you,” Spike told him, leading Xander back to the living room. He handed Xander the packet from Angel first, grinning as Xander’s eyes widened when he saw the account balances.

“Wow,” Xander said in a small voice. “You told me you had money, but – “

“Yup, surprised me too,” Spike admitted. “Still, those long-term investments do pay off, eh, Pet?”

“I guess so.” Xander looked up, troubled. “But I still don’t like you buying me all kinds of stuff. It feels – I don’t know, it makes me feel like a charity case or something.”

“Then buy clothes yourself,” Spike said, handing Xander the package from Brumwalt.

“’Dear Sir,’” Xander read, “’Enclosed please find the following: A copy of our response and counterclaim to Alexander Harris, Sr.’s complaint filed by Eric Norton, Esquire against Alexander Harris, Jr. and all exhibits and cover letter thereto, including your original photographs; A copy of Mr. Norton’s correspondence in response to our counterclaim; a copy of the settlement agreement executed by Alexander Harris, Sr. and properly notarized; a check for the full amount of the settlement; and an executed copy of the dismissal notice of both actions.’ Huh?” He flipped back a few pages. “’My firm is filing a counterclaim on behalf of Mr. Alexander Harris, Jr., alleging severe and repeated assault and battery . . . evidence in the form of photographs, copies attached, and a belt and pool cue bearing our client’s blood and Mr. Harris, Sr.’s fingerprints’ – “

Xander glanced up, his face pale.

“P-photographs?”

Spike nodded silently, indicating the packet with a jerk of his head. Xander paged back and stared at the Polaroids.

“You took pictures?” Xander asked in a hushed voice. “When?”

“First night,” Spike admitted, shrugging. “Don’t know why, just seemed like a good idea.”

“And you stole the pool cue and my dad’s belt?” Xander asked blankly.

Spike grinned.

“Yup. Go on, look at the rest.”

Xander looked.

“’Will agree to dismiss our counterclaim in return for the following consideration: Dismissal of all allegations against my client and indemnity from all further claims arising out of . . . an agreed restraining order prohibiting any contact between . . . restitution to my client of all monies paid for . . . amount for physical and emotional damages, and reimbursement for’ – “

Xander glanced up again, his eyes sparkling, the beginnings of a smile twitching the corners of his lips.

“You blackmailed him?”

“Blackmail is such an ugly word, Pet,” Spike smirked. “I prefer to think of it as, oh, application of carefully selected information toward a desired financial goal. Go on, have a look.”

Xander picked out the check and stared.

“Uh, Spike? This is a certified check for $65,000.”

“Yup.” Spike grinned triumphantly. “Three years’ rent at $600 a month – and if that wasn’t highway robbery for that shithole of a basement, don’t know what is – plus interest, plus what Brumwalt told me was a pitiful pain and suffering claim. Think he’s right, personally, but if we asked much more your dad would just declare bankruptcy. So there you are, start up your retirement fund or whatever.”

“Wow.” Xander stared at the check as if it might bite him. “And he dismissed the lawsuit?”

“Yup.” Brumwalt had earned his fee. “Brumwalt dug around a bit, found out it was against the local zoning laws, plus your neighborhood association rules, to use the house as a rental property. So you get a full refund plus interest. I told him to throw in the restraining order part. If your mum or dad wants to contact you, they’ve got to go through B.”

“You blackmailed him,” Xander repeated, grinning now. “I wonder where he came up with $65,000. Probably had to borrow it against his retirement account or something.”

Spike snorted.

“Pet, I don’t care if he has to earn it peddling his arse on the docks,” he said. “Point is, that isn’t half what he owes you, but it’s the most I figured we could get. An’ I just hope and pray he breaks that restraining order, ‘cause then we’re free and clear to sue for every damn splinter he owns.”

“Wow.” Xander’s grin broadened. “You must’ve found one efficient, slimy lawyer.”

“Brumwalt’s the best,” Spike said, nodding. “’E’s a Thrilk demon. If there’s anybody purely meant to be a lawyer, it’s a Thrilk demon.”

“A demonic lawyer?” Xander repeated, surprised.

“You’d be surprised how many of ‘em are,” Spike chuckled. “Some are even vampires.”

“So – “ Xander looked at the check again. “How much do I owe this lawyer? Brumwalt?”

“Nothing,” Spike said. “He owed me a favor, ‘s all.”

Xander glanced up sharply.

“That’s a lie,” he said. “You paid him, didn’t you?”

Spike shrugged, not particularly bothered that Xander had caught him out in a lie.

“My idea, my case, my bill,” he said. “Anyway, B don’t like to deal with mortals. He’d’ve sucked you for twice the price.” Spike grinned. “Whereas I’d do it for nothing, ey?”

That brought only the ghost of a smile.

“I want to pay you back,” Xander said, looking down.

“All right,” Spike said, shrugging again. “Tell me when I get this frigging chip out of my head, you won’t try to stop me havin’ my fun with your dad and mum, and we’ll call it even.”

Xander shivered.

“I couldn’t stop you, could I?” he asked softly.

“Hmmm. Doubt it,” Spike said honestly. “Would you want to?”

Xander took a deep breath.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I mean . . . they’re my mother and my father. Sometimes I wish they were dead with all my heart, and sometimes . . . sometimes I just want to know what I did, you know? To make them treat me like that. I want to know why they couldn’t love me.” He looked away, but not before Spike saw the sheen to his eyes.

“Ah, Pet.” Spike sat down beside Xander on the couch and pulled him over and around so he was sitting back against Spike’s chest as they had in the tub. “Don’t take on. Wasn’t your fault.”

“You don’t know that,” Xander said, very quietly.

“Pet, when’s the first time you remember getting a bad beating?” Spike asked practically.

Xander shrugged uncomfortably.

“I don’t know,” he said almost inaudibly. “I don’t remember. It was before I started school, I guess. I remember starting kindergarten with a cast on my left arm and telling the teacher I fell down the stairs.”

Spike forced down the change to his game face with some difficulty.

“Probably wasn’t the first time, then,” he said. “If you had a lie made up, that is. See, Pet, what in the world could a five-year-old boy do that warranted breaking his arm, hmmm? Nothing. Wasn’t you, wasn’t never you. It was just them and their rotten souls. Demons and vampires don’t have the corner on evil, you know. Mortals do just fine on their own. Watch the news sometime.”

Xander sat still for a moment, accepting Spike’s loose embrace, then abruptly changed the subject.

“So . . . what’s dinner plans?” he asked.

“Well, I’d say if you want to go take a shower and put on the clothes I laid out, you just might find out,” Spike grinned. “If you hurry, we’ve got time to stop by the bank on the way, sock away that check.”

Xander hurried, although not without some griping at having to wear his rather uncomfortable and ill-fitting suit for dinner. While Xander showered and dressed, Spike changed into what passed for his own “better” clothes – black leather pants, black silk shirt, black leather vest, and a bit of shine to his boots.

Spike couldn’t honestly say that Xander looked good in his interview suit, but he did look better. And the way Xander’s jaw dropped when he looked at Spike made everything worthwhile. Everything. Funny how Xander’s pants seemed a little too loose when he put them on, and then a bit too tight as he assessed Spike’s outfit.

“Wow,” Xander said, swallowing hard. “GQ meets Heavy Metal, or: Vamps at the Leather Ball.”

Spike smirked.

“Like it, eh?” he prompted.

“Parts of me are giving you a standing ovation,” Xander admitted, blushing. “Um, dinner?”

Spike chuckled and stepped in close, giving Xander the scent of leather, letting him feel the soft brush of it against him. The mortal was fairly radiating arousal.

“I could be persuaded to eat in,” he purred, then snickered when an expression of pure lust flashed through Xander’s eyes. He stepped away again. “But not tonight.”

Xander grimaced.

“Tease,” he pouted. “How am I supposed to sit there and eat now?”

“Bank first,” Spike reminded him. “If banking won’t wilt a woody, nothing will.”

He was right, although it was fun to watch the bankers scamper around getting Xander’s accounts set up. Spike took advantage of the rare opportunity to do business during daylight banking hours, deciding that it couldn’t hurt to move some of his assets to local accounts, and he arranged to transfer part of one of his accounts to Sunnydale. Spike reminded Xander to draw out some cash until the bank could issue a debit card, warning him that they were going clothes shopping soon.

Xander looked less thrilled, however, when Spike directed him to park in front of the Hong Kong Noodle House.

“We got dressed up for this?” he said skeptically. “Limp ramen noodles? I can get those at the grocery store.”

Spike snickered.

“Not by half,” he said. “Come on.” He led Xander into the shop and up to the counter, nodding to the middle-aged Chinese man behind the cash register. “Got a seat at the back,” he said casually.

The man’s eyes flickered over Spike and Xander and he smiled.

“This way, gentlemen,” he said smoothly, raising the gate to let them behind the counter. They followed him through a spotless but uninteresting kitchen, down a short hallway. The man opened a door, revealing a flight of lushly carpeted stairs leading down – and an exotically beautiful, tiny Oriental woman dressed in red silk, apparently waiting for them.

“Follow me, please, sirs,” she said, her voice smooth and sweet as honey. “Welcome to the humble kitchen of master Leng Chi. I am Leng Mei, and if there is anything I can do to help make your dining experience an unforgettable one, you have only to ask it.”

Xander looked flummoxed, but he followed Spike down the stairs into a richly decorated room with a single long, low table with a big Lazy Susan on top of it – no chairs, just piles of soft cushions on the thick rug. Xander settled himself awkwardly, Spike easily. Leng Mei brought bowls of hot water with rose petals scattered over the surface and washed their hands lingeringly with a silken cloth. She poured cups of fragrant hot tea, bowed deeply, and vanished behind a silk curtain after pointing out a silken bell pull by which they could summon her.

“I never knew this was here,” Xander murmured, looking around.

“Yeah, well, if you ever want to eat here again, you won’t tell the Slayer about it,” Spike grinned. “You might call it an inside secret.”

Xander swallowed heavily.

“Vampires?” he whispered.

“Uh-uh.” Spike shook his head. “Risza demons. That little lady you were just undressing with your eyes was probably around to welcome in the last millenium – if not the one before that. Her father, Leng Chi, there’s just no telling. Bet your Watcher friend’d love to get his hands on him. Leng Chi’s probably forgotten more demon and vampire lore than the whole council of Watchers have ever known. He’s sort of an old friend of mine.” He grinned. “Hell of a cook, too. You’ll see.”

The dishes began arriving immediately, fragrant bowls and platters of exotic delicacies borne in by a series of Oriental boys and young women under Leng Mei’s strict supervision. Xander eyed the dishes with a mixture of awe and trepidation.

“Ummm – smells good, but what is it?” he asked, sotto voce.

Spike grinned.

“Don’t ask, Pet,” he said. “Trust me. Just enjoy.”

“Uh, Spike?” Xander said plaintively. “I, um, can’t enjoy when I don’t know whether or not somebody’s family pet – or somebody, for that matter – might be on my plate.”

Spike sighed, rolled his eyes and pulled the bell cord. Xander’s eyes widened when Spike queried Leng Mei in Chinese, and Spike snickered at Leng Mei’s rather indignant response. He turned back to Xander after the lady had once again vanished behind the curtain.

“She says they’d never serve domestic pets or human flesh,” he said, grinning. “Hereabouts neither are raised under sufficiently sanitary conditions.”

“Hey, I showered right before we came over here,” Xander protested.

“Sorry, Pet,” Spike said unrepentantly. “If anybody’s gonna eat you tonight, it’s gonna be me.”

“Spike!” Xander hissed as Leng Mei returned to pour more tea. “Don’t say things like that.”

Spike smiled innocently and spooned a liberal helping from one of the dishes onto Xander’s plate.

“Eat up.”

Xander managed the chopsticks awkwardly but ate, raised his eyebrows and ate some more. He helped himself from a bowl, then moaned in pleasure.

“Oh, this is great,” he said, reaching for more. He speared a piece and gave it a worried look. “It’s – uh, octopus, isn’t it?”

Spike picked up a segment with his chopsticks and chewed thoughtfully.

“Nope,” he said. “Luzak tentacle. Hard to come by, those.” In the interests of Xander’s appetite, he decided not to tell the whelp what Luzaks used those tentacles for.

The bite stopped midway between the plate and Xander’s mouth.

“And Luzaks are – “ Xander began uneasily, then stopped, shaking his head. “Never mind, ignorance is bliss, and tonight I’m blissful.” He popped the morsel in his mouth.

“Good philosophy,” Spike grinned, and ate.

Almost two hours later, toying with delicate, almost perfumey fruit ices, the table was cleared and Xander and Spike were relaxing on the cushions when one of the beautiful young women who had served the food returned, bearing fresh bowls of rose-scented water. She washed Spike’s and Xander’s hands, handed them warm towels for their faces, then knelt before Spike, sweeping her long black hair aside and offering her throat in obvious invitation.

Before Spike could muddle out some excuse, Leng Mei came to the rescue, hauling the girl roughly to her feet.

“No!” she hissed in Mandarin. “Never when a master has brought his Consort, do you understand?” Immediately she turned to Spike and Xander and said in English, “My apologies, gentlemen. No offense was intended.” She placed a small bowl and a covered warming plate on the table and bowed again. “For you to share, gentlemen. We will not disturb you further. Good evening.”

“What was that all about?” Xander said, glancing at the silk curtain. “Vampires don’t get after-dinner drinks at Chinese restaurants or something? And what was it she said?”

Spike snickered, then rethought his reply. He decided a partial truth could do no harm.

“She thinks we’re, you know, Pet, together,” Spike told him.

“Well, we are,” Xander said, then his eyebrows jumped. “Oh – together as in together?”

“Together as in, you’re feeding me,” Spike said. He reached over and stroked Xander’s throat lightly with his fingertips. “Not many other reasons for a master vampire to be dining down here with a mortal, eh?”

“Wellllll . . . “ Xander grinned. “I can’t go making a liar out of you, can I?” He drew something out of his pocket, and Spike was surprised to see his scalpel in its plastic sheath. “Dessert?”

Spike shivered, suddenly hard, achingly hard.

“Right,” he said hoarsely. “C’mere, then.”

Xander didn’t resist when Spike unbuttoned his shirt, but he looked worried, glancing at the silk curtain.

“Don’t worry,” Spike said, sliding the shirt off and starting on Xander’s pants. “Mei knows better than to interrupt us, or let anybody else. And I want to see you naked on these cushions, another yummy dish for me to nibble on.”

Xander groaned and skinned out of his pants with amazing speed, lying back on the soft cushions, his eyes dilated.

“What’s that?” he murmured, nodding to the bowl and plate on the table. “I’m almost afraid to ask.”

Spike lifted the cover on the warming plate and sniffed the bowl.

“Hot towels,” he said, grinning. “And rose syrup.”

“Rose syrup?” Xander repeated blankly. “What’s that for?”

Spike smirked, dipping his finger in the syrup. He traced it slowly over Xander’s lips.

“For this,” he said, leaning in for a kiss.

He kissed, licked and nibbled his way up and down Xander’s body, tracing designs on his skin with the rose syrup and then licking it off; by the time he reached Xander’s cock, Xander was reduced to a moaning, whimpering puddle of desire. Spike sucked him in slowly, took him almost to the edge, then backed off, picking up the scalpel and handing it to Xander.

“You’ll have to do this, luv,” he whispered.

Xander took the scalpel and made a rather wavery cut with shaking hands at the top of his chest. Spike sealed his lips over the wound and let the blood trickle into his mouth while his fingers stroked Xander back up to the edge again. He closed his eyes in ecstasy, nearly moaning himself as Xander came with a shuddering gasp of delight. The endorphin-laden blood, heady with strange spices, was the most intoxicating thing Spike had ever tasted. He allowed himself to suck very gently, just enough to get all the fragrant droplets he could before the bleeding stopped. He bit into his lip and closed the shallow cut, then sat back, contentedly licking Xander’s come from his fingers.

“Wow,” Xander panted, sprawled sweaty and sated and beautiful over the cushions. “That was . . . intense.” Then he glanced at Spike, troubled. “But what about you?”

“Loved every second, Pet,” Spike assured him. He lifted the lid of the warming plate, took out one of the hot towels, and gently wiped Xander down. Xander purred.

“That’s not what I mean,” Xander protested drowsily. “I mean, you’re still – “ He illustratively ran his fingertip across the front of Spike’s leather trousers, outlining the bulge there.

Spike shrugged.

“’S all right, Pet,” he said.

“No, I – “ Xander rolled over suddenly, and Spike abruptly found himself half pinned under the mortal’s warm, naked body. A marvelous position, he decided.

“I want to do something for you,” Xander murmured, fumbling with the buttons of Spike’s trousers. “Teach me something you really like.”

A million thoughts swirled through Spike’s head, but after what he’d just done with Xander, one image remained foremost. He helped Xander open his trousers – no point going home sticky – then unbuttoned his shirt partially.

“Tell you something, then, Pet,” Spike said huskily. He took Xander’s hand, drew the work-roughened fingertips down the side of his throat, shivering at the sensation. “Throats are a big thing with vampires.”

“Gee, couldn’t have guessed that,” Xander grinned, his eyes sparkling mischievously. Holding Spike’s gaze, he dipped one finger in the rose syrup and traced a sticky trail over Spike’s throat, then bent down.

Spike moaned as the warm, moist tongue traced patterns over his skin, teasing the nerve endings on his sensitive throat even as a warm hand closed around his erection, stroking it slowly. More rose syrup and rougher cat licks this time, exploring every millimeter of skin from chin to collarbone and back again, mapping out all the sensitive spots. Spike was shuddering now, thrusting up into the pumping hand and moaning helplessly.

Then Xander nipped.

Hard.

Howling, Spike threw his head back and came, came so hard that it hurt, but it was a beautiful pain, as beautiful as the tingling ache where Xander had sunk his teeth into a fold of Spike’s flesh, just there below his ear. Xander nipped again, a little lower, and Spike whimpered through a fresh wave of ecstasy, again, again until he thought he’d go mad.

At last Xander took pity on him and relinquished Spike’s throat with one last lick, then grabbed a warm towel and meticulously cleaned Spike off. Spike purred, rolling over to pull Xander close.

“Mmmmm. Pet, you amaze me,” Spike rumbled in Xander’s ear. “You’re a wicked thing, aren’t you?”

“Why, you’d rather I was virtuous and shy?” Xander whispered, chuckling.

“Virtue’s overrated,” Spike drawled lazily.

“So . . . “ Xander rolled over, gazing at Spike smugly. “I take it you liked that.”

“Bloody loved it,” Spike said unabashedly. “Come on, get your kit on. No clothes shopping tonight. I’m knackered, good for nothing but lounging about in bed or in front of the telly, but I’d just as soon do it at home.”

“Sounds good,” Xander admitted, looking a little tired himself, and no wonder, Spike realized. He’d had a full day, and a strange one, too.

And there was the whole weekend ahead of them.

Spike tucked several bills under the bowl of rose syrup as they left, not letting Xander see the amount. As they walked back up the stairs, Xander asked, “You know, we never met that guy, your friend. Leng Chi.”

“’Nother time, Pet,” Spike said. “Don’t think you’re quite ready for Leng Chi yet.”

Spike himself wasn’t quite ready to see Leng Chi in person; the old one was far too discerning, and Spike was just as happy to keep the Risza demon from realizing the true state of affairs, either concerning the chip in Spike’s brain or the fact that Xander wasn’t really Spike’s Consort. Technically. Yet.

“Hey.” Xander stopped outside the restaurant, turning to Spike. “I just wanted to say, you know, thanks. That was a hell of a dinner.”

Spike grinned.

“Was, wasn’t it? Although I liked the dessert best.”

“Me too,” Xander admitted. He snickered. “Chinese food with an American chaser, huh?”

Spike rolled his eyes.

“So, Pet – think you’d like to do it again sometime?”

Xander gave Spike a sideways grin.

“You know, we don’t have any plans this weekend,” he said. “So – your friend . . . think he does carry-out?”




Chapter 12


“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Spike snarled as Xander helped him through the door.

“Thanks, not in your condition,” Xander said wryly.

“I’m getting bloody sick of this!”

“It’s your own fault,” Xander said. “If you didn’t insist on taking those things on by yourself – “

“Somebody’s got to.”

“And there’s a whole Scooby Gang of somebodies planning to do it later this evening. And of course there’s your faithful sidekick, who strangely enough is never allowed to do much more than spectate.”

“Well, if a hydra can do this to me,” Spike growled, “What the bleedin’ ‘ell you think it’d do to you?” In point of fact Spike didn’t want to think what a hydra could do to Xander. Hydra venom couldn’t hurt Spike – his blood made him immune – but what it could do to humans . . . Spike shuddered slightly. Hydra venom killed humans. Slowly. Horribly. Of course, they generally went mad with the pain long before they died.

“Guess we’ll never know now,” Xander said patiently, settling Spike into the bathtub. “Seeing as how it’s dead, I mean. Yuck. At least no guts hanging out this time, but that arm is definitely broken.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Spike said sullenly. “Look, go see what’s in the fridge, will you, Pet?”

Xander went, and came back looking worried.

“Um, Spike? There isn’t anything. Nothing.”

“Huh?” Spike shook his head. “Thought I had a couple bottles left from those revenants – “

“You had that yesterday,” Xander said anxiously. “After that fight with the morlocks.”

“Oh, bloody ‘ell,” Spike groaned, remembering. Shit, shit, shit, now what am I –

“I can go to Giles’,” Xander offered. “But I know that pig blood doesn’t help much.”

“May have to do,” Spike said unhappily.

Xander unbuttoned his sleeve.

“I could – “

“No!” Spike said sharply. “Not when I’m so hungry, Pet.” He forced a calmer tone. “Sorry. Just – it isn’t safe, you know.”

“I know.” Xander flushed. “But you need blood. Isn’t there something I can do?”

Spike sighed.

“Yeah. Get in my wallet, pull out a few hundred quid, and go to Willy’s place.”

Carefully Xander extracted Spike’s wallet.

“Willy’s? The bar?” he asked.

“Yeah. Tell ‘im I sent you for at least five pints of his special reserve. You may have to push a bit; he don’t like selling to mortals. Take the cooler with you.”

Xander stood there, staring at Spike.

“Willy sells blood? What, human blood?”

“Yeah.” Spike grimaced. “Look, it isn’t what you think, Pet. I’ll explain when you get back, but I’d rather you hurry, if you don’t mind, all right?”

“ . . . right.” Xander hurried, taking Spike’s wallet with him, but Spike didn’t care. He slumped back in the tub and tried to relax, knowing it would probably be close to an hour before Xander returned.

Why the bloody hell was he piling into every battle with every creepy-crawly in Sunnyhell? Sure, it was a lark beating things up, but a hydra? He’d been bloody lucky to come off with nothing more than hellacious bites and scratches and one broken arm. So why’d he dived in like that?

Xander, of course. Why anything, these days? Xander. He didn’t give a rat’s bollocks about the Slayer, but Willow and Tara couldn’t seem to keep out of harm’s way, and Dawn seemed to share Xander’s uncanny luck for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they were in danger, Xander would charge right in and get hurt. If they were hurt, Xander would eat himself up with guilt – and would throw himself in harm’s way twice as vigorously the next time. Therefore Spike was stuck with watching out for the Scoobies. Which occasionally meant taking stupid risks, fighting stupid battles, and even getting the snot kicked out of him now and again.

For Xander.

Spike had estimated an hour for Xander to talk Willy into the sale and get home with the blood. In fact it was thirty-six minutes – which meant either Xander had been damned persuasive or Willy hadn’t had any merchandise available. Spike heard the squeal of tires outside a split second before the door opened. Xander plunked the cooler down on the vanity; his expression was strange, anxious and slightly fearful.

“He didn’t have any?” Spike asked, trying not to panic.

“No, I got it,” Xander said. He cut open the corner of one plastic packet and handed it to Spike, picking up the cooler again. “Go on and drink that, I’ll warm the rest up for you.”

Spike didn’t know what was bothering Xander, but at the moment he wasn’t in any condition to ponder the issue too deeply. He gulped down the blood – it was slightly cool, but very fresh, and it still had a bit of that precious zing of life left in it. By the time he’d finished the first bag, Xander had returned, carrying a big mug of heated blood, and he could hear the microwave in the kitchen warming the next batch.

“Drink up,” Xander said, watching worriedly as Spike set the mug aside.

“Not yet.” Spike adjusted his position in the tub. “Help me set the arm first. Don’t want it to heal up crooked.”

This was just a simple break, not nearly as bad as the fracture from the Vorgost fight, and Spike was able to stay conscious and direct Xander’s efforts. When that was finished, he found the mug of blood still warm enough and drank up while Xander fetched the next. He drank gratefully, feeling his tissues knit and mend, feeling his body nourished and energized. He sipped the last mug more slowly as Xander cleaned him up.

“Ummmm . . . Spike?” Xander asked while he worked. “You said you’d explain how come Willy has human blood for sale.”

“Oh. That.” Spike shrugged uncomfortably. “Remember Riley? There’s plenty of mortals who’ll sell their blood and glad to do it. Some do it direct, in feeding houses like Riley went to. Not the safest or smartest thing to do – they’re banking on a vamp’s willpower to cut off before they kill their donor.

“Smarter donors do it this way, sell blood by the pint. Pays better than selling to a blood bank. If they don’t mind hanging about in back of the bar to give fresh in an emergency, pays even better.” Spike shrugged again. “That’s what special reserve is. The ‘house red’ goes a lot cheaper.” He didn’t mention that the ‘house red’ was often far less scrupulously obtained – when someone brought in bottles of human blood to sell, Willy didn’t ask any questions as to where it had come from.

“Oh.” Xander kept working, not meeting Spike’s eyes. “There were a lot of other vampires in there. A lot. I didn’t think – I mean, it was daylight outside, and I didn’t expect – “

Shit. Bloody, bloody hell. Spike fought down a groan. I didn’t think. Could’ve gotten him killed.

“Sorry, Pet, I didn’t think,” Spike said quietly. “Willy’s got an access in his basement from the sewers. I shouldn’t have sent you.”

“No, I was okay.” Xander glanced up, wearing a strange expression on his face. “Ummm . . . some of them started kind of hassling me, you know? Calling me ‘Renfield’ and ‘daywalker’ and stuff. And then Willy came out from the bar, told them to leave me alone, that I was your Consort. And they all got real quiet after that and stopped bothering me.”


Oh, bloody hell. Spike sighed.

“So are you going to tell me what that was about?”

Spike grimaced. He hadn’t planned on confronting this particular issue just yet. Apparently rumors had gotten around faster than he’d have liked. Probably Lissik.

“Well, Pet, it’s like this – remember Renfield in the movie Dracula? He got about in the daytime, sort of took care of Vlad’s errands while the vampire was stuck underground?” he said, waiting until Xander nodded. “Well, sometimes vampires have a mortal like that, somebody to protect their lair or take care of their daytime business. Sometimes the vampire feeds on ‘em now and again, sometimes not. They’re called renfields or daywalkers. It’s – not a particularly flattering term,” Spike admitted.

“I kinda figured that, from the way they said it,” Xander said wryly. He put down the sponge. “Why would anybody want to do that? Take care of a vampire?”

Spike gave Xander a pointed look; the mortal flushed.

“Uh . . . “

“All kinds of reasons for a renfield to hang around and do ‘is job,” Spike said. “Threats to the mortal’s loved ones. Money. Blackmail. Drugs – not usually, though. Power. Protection. The promise that the vampire’ll turn him one day. All sorts of things.”

“Uh-huh.” Xander looked at Spike searchingly. “And what about Consorts? Why did Willy call me that?” He swallowed. “Does it have something to do with you feeding me your blood?”

Spike froze.

“Wh-what?” he asked softly.

Xander glanced down.

“Funny how when I pour myself a glass of that V-8 it tastes different,” he said. “I didn’t start wondering until I kissed you that time after you’d bitten yourself. It tasted . . . familiar. And then – “ Xander took a deep breath. “I did this experiment. I had a bruise I got at work one day. So I came home and rubbed some of that liniment on it. Felt nice, but the bruise didn’t go away. I even put more on before I went to bed. The bruise was still there in the morning. Funny thing, though. After you brought me my morning V-8, the bruise went away. Fast. Real fast. Like the way the welts on my back went away. I mean, I watched it fade.”

Spike sighed.

“Help me out of the tub, will you, Pet?” he said tiredly.

Xander hesitated.

“Don’t you want – “ He touched his forearm uncertainly.

“Not right now,” Spike said, mustering a faint grin. “We’ll see what you think about it after we talk, eh?”

“Well . . . “ Xander helped Spike out of the tub, but stopped him on the bathroom mat. “Wait a minute, let me finish.” He wet a towel and finished cleaning the blood and grime from Spike’s skin, toweled him dry and wrapped him in a robe, then followed him out to the living room, installing Spike on the couch.

“Beer?” Xander offered.

“Sure, yeah.”

Xander brought back a bottle of stout for Spike and one for himself and sat down, not in a separate chair as Spike expected, but next to Spike on the couch.

“Okay,” Xander said quietly. “Go for it.”

Spike took a sip of beer and cleared his throat.

“Consorts are to renfields what Childer are to minions,” he said. “They’re not daytime errand boys or guard dogs or a handy snack when food’s short. They’re . . . companions. Trusted. Cared for. Chosen. Not there because a vampire needs someone; there because a vampire . . . wants . . . them.”

“Wants?” Xander repeated slowly. “As in – “

“Yeah,” Spike said, grinning slightly. “As in. Feeding, sex, the whole package. Only master vampires take Consorts, ‘cause only master vampires have the self-control not to drain their Consorts and the strength to defend their claim. Other vampires won’t touch a master’s Consort. Even demons respect the . . . “ he grimaced. “The bond.”

“Yeah, let’s talk about that,” Xander said. He leaned forward slightly. “Why do I feel so close to you? I have these strange thoughts, these . . . “ He shook his head.

“Desires?” Spike guessed.

“Yeah.” Xander stared down into his beer. “Why you’re feeding me your blood.” He swallowed, barely whispering. “And why it tastes so good.”

Spike sighed.

“Answers are all the same, Pet,” he said. “I gave you a little of my blood at first to help you heal up. Later I gave you more ‘cause you were feeding me your blood and I didn’t want to leave you weak. As long as a vampire gives his Consort a little of his blood each time, a Consort can feed a vampire almost exclusively. The exchange of blood makes a bond between them, sort of like the bond between Sire and Childe.”

“It’s more than that, though, isn’t it?” Xander asked, gazing into Spike’s eyes.

Spike grimaced. He’d hoped to stop there.

“Vampire blood’s powerful stuff,” he admitted. “Especially a master’s blood. Regular doses make you healthier – stronger, faster, more resistant to diseases. Have enough, or long enough, and you’d be a fair match for the Slayer, I guess.” He didn’t tell Xander the rest – that regular doses of Spike’s blood could keep Xander from aging.

“But that’s not all, is it?” Xander pressed. “I could taste your blood on your lips. That should’ve made me blow chunks. But I liked it. Your blood isn’t – “ He suddenly went pale. “It’s not, like, turning me, is it?”

“No.” Spike shook his head. “You’ve got a bit of a taste for it, that’s all. Sort of like the stout.” He gestured at the bottle. “Just ‘cause you like it doesn’t make you an alcoholic, see? Anyway, not much for you to worry about.” He shrugged deliberately. “You’re not my Consort, Pet. And probably won’t never be, either.”

Curious, he watched the expressions flit over Xander’s face – startlement, relief . . . hurt.

“Why – um – “

“Why not?” Spike managed a grin, reached out and traced one fingertip down the side of Xander’s throat. “Not what you’re thinking, Pet. Simple, really. Can’t bite you.”

“You can’t – “ Xander blinked. “You can’t?”

Spike smiled and tapped the side of his head illustratively.

“Chip, remember? Can’t do it.”

Xander licked his lips.

“And that, um, matters?”

“’Fraid so,” Spike said, sighing. “Puts my mark on you. Important, you know. Kind of – hmm. The vampire/Consort equivalent of a wedding, say.”

“Oh.” Xander finished his beer silently. Spike waited, not knowing what he was expecting to hear. At last Xander spoke again, very quietly, with obvious reluctance.

“Do you want to, um, stop then? I mean, if you can’t have, you know, everything.”

Spike sat silent, rocked to his core. He’d expected indignation that he’d kept this from Xander, anger, outrage; hell, he’d half expected the whelp to be out the door without bothering to pack. He debated his answer, settled on what was more or less the truth.

“Pet, knew I couldn’t have the whole package when I started,” he said simply. “Won’t say it doesn’t matter. It does. I bloody hate it. If you knew what I’d like to do to those Initiative gits . . . well, it wouldn’t do nothing for your appetite. Doesn’t matter, they’re gone and I’m here and I’m buggered and there’s nothing I can do about it.” He shrugged, meeting Xander’s eyes squarely. “I’d like to have what I can. That’s the truth. Wanted it enough that I didn’t tell you – hell, didn’t tell myself that that’s what I was doing. I always found some reason – healing your wounds, keeping you strong so you could feed me, such as that. Easier than admitting to myself that you mattered – matter – to me that much.”

Xander sat silent for a long moment, twirling the beer bottle in his fingers.

“I used to really hate you,” he said idly. “Then when the Initiative put that chip in your head, I – I don’t know, I didn’t hate you less right away, but it felt bad hating you, like, I don’t know, hitting somebody when they’re down. I don’t really know when I stopped hating you. I guess maybe around when Buffy’s mom died. The funny thing is, I started wanting you before I stopped hating you. Weird, isn’t it?”

Spike smirked, remembering his days with Angelus. He’d never stopped hating Angelus. Even when he loved him.

“Sorry, Pet. I’m the wrong one to call it weird,” he said.

“You really confused me when you brought me back here that night,” Xander said, giving Spike a faint smile in response. “It seemed – I don’t know, impossible, that somebody I’d hated so much could take such good care of me. Could care about me. I mean, I’d never given you any reason to do anything nice for me. You’d tried to kill me, I’d tried to kill you, but you brought me back here and took care of me when you didn’t have to. My parents were supposed to love me and take care of me and they – and they – but you, you were good to me. For no reason at all.”

“Wouldn’t exactly say it was for no reason,” Spike said, giving Xander what he hoped was a seductive look. But he hadn’t had any designs on the whelp that first night, had he? Oh, sure, he’d looked, thought, but there’d been no intent then.

“You know when I really realized it was – I don’t know, something?” Xander said. His face flushed. “When you took the pictures. I mean the pictures I knew about you taking. The me naked pictures. That was – I don’t know.” His blush deepened. “It made me feel, you know, beautiful. Nobody, not even Anya, ever made me feel – since – never mind.”

Spike reached over and clasped Xander’s hand, very loosely, stroking his fingers.

“’S all right, Pet,” he said quietly. “I know.”

Xander squeezed Spike’s fingers.

“You know what?” Xander said, staring at the floor. “You’re the first person who ever let me decide how far, how fast, and didn’t just push for what they wanted. You know? I mean, Cordy dragged me into closets, Faith just kind of threw me down on the bed and went at it, and Anya walked into the basement, held out a bunch of condoms and dropped her clothes. But even with that first blowjob, you’ve never pushed me to do anything for you. Maybe it was just the chip.” He glanced over at Spike. “But I don’t think so.”

Spike squirmed uncomfortably.

“Yeah – well – “ He shrugged. “There’s always the Slayer who’d gladly poke a stake through me if I did you wrong. ‘Course, she could be really cruel and vicious and leave me at the mercy of Red and her little chum.” Spike shuddered melodramatically. “Scary thought, that.”

Xander grinned, apparently as relieved as Spike at the change of subject.

“Of course, they could just tie you to a chair and let Giles lecture you for hours on end.”

“Bloody ‘ell!” Spike groaned, throwing the back of his wrist over his eyes as if swooning. “Not that! Anythin’ but that! Bring the stakes, bring the garlic and holy water, take me out sunbathing, but not that!”

Xander howled with laughter and collapsed into Spike’s arms. Spike, laughing too hard to kiss his almost-Consort, gave him a big hug.

At last, when Xander had regained his breath, he looked up at Spike and said softly, “Does this mean you really want me to be your Consort? I mean, as much as we can?”

Spike swallowed. Hard.

“Guess so,” he said as nonchalantly as he could. “As much as we can, yeah.” Xander had an odd look on his face, and Spike decided he still wasn’t convinced. He reached out, tracing his fingertip down the side of Xander’s neck again, making the mortal shiver. “I’d do the lot if I could, Pet. Believe it.” He gave Xander his best seductive gaze. “Would you want me to?”

Xander shivered again, still wearing that odd look.

“Yeah,” he whispered. “I think – I think I would.”

The mortal swallowed heavily.

“Does that mean you still want – “ He half extended his forearm.

“Want? That’s putting it mildly, Pet,” Spike said wryly. He gazed at Xander more seriously. “Two things first, though, Pet. First off, the stuff from Willy’s will do me. I’m all right. So don’t think you have to if you don’t want to.”

Xander blushed.

“I don’t mind,” he mumbled. “I like – “ He swallowed. “I like how much you like it, if that makes any sense.”

Spike grinned.

“Makes sense to me, Pet.”

Xander took a deep breath, steadying himself.

“Okay, what’s the second thing?”

“Second thing.” Spike mentally braced himself for argument or downright refusal. “If we’re doing this, we’re doing it right. That means anytime you feed me – anything more than just a taste, say – you have a bit of my blood. Enough to make sure you regenerate your own supply fast. You don’t like the taste, I can keep mixing it in something, but that’s the way it’s gonna be, Pet.”

Xander glanced down, then up into Spike’s eyes again.

“ . . . all right,” he said, very softly.

“I’m telling you,” Spike argued, “It’s important for – “

He stopped.

Blinked.

“’All right’?” he repeated. “Just – all right?”

Xander flushed again.

“Uh-huh,” he said, a little defensively. “I mean, if I’m your Consort, that’s how it works, isn’t it?”

Spike held perfectly still, feeling a grin growing, growing, until it threatened to split his face.

“Yeah, luv,” he said quietly. “That’s how it works.”

Xander licked his lips.

“Okay,” he said. “Just making sure.”

He pulled something out of his pocket – Spike’s scalpel.

“You carrying that around with you now?” Spike asked, amused and a little unsettled by the implications of that.

“Sometimes,” Xander admitted a little embarrassedly, but he met Spike’s eyes. “When we patrol. Just in case. Because you keep getting hurt.”

“Hmmm.” Spike took the scalpel, glanced at it. “You sterilize it?”

“Uh-huh.” Xander looked slightly offended. “I’m not stupid.”

“No, but if you planned on giving me your blood first off when I’m badly hurt, you’re a bloody fool,” Spike said bluntly. He handed the scalpel back. “You’d do better to pack up the cooler and put it in the trunk of the car, maybe. And if we’re going to keep doing this, we’ll have to get you something better to use.”

Xander’s eyebrows rose.

“Better than a scalpel?”

Spike shrugged a little sheepishly.

“Doesn’t seem right,” he said. “Considering some of the things I’ve used that for.” He shook his head. “’Sides, it’s sharp, but scalpels aren’t made of a metal hard enough to hold that edge, and we can’t put that kind of edge on it, either. A good knife would be better.”

“Oh.” Xander smiled shyly, as if he liked the idea of Spike planning for the future. “Okay. Then we’ll find a good knife. But in the meantime – “ He uncapped the scalpel and made a shallow cut in his forearm, offering the wound to Spike.

Spike gave Xander a dark smile and deliberately licked slowly up the shallow cut, savoring the hot droplets that welled up from the cut. He licked again, slowly, contentedly, like a cat, careful not to hurt, just enjoying the rich flavor of Xander’s life willingly shared. Ahhhhhh, good, so good. Finally, reluctantly, he bit the inside of his lip and closed the cut, purring contentedly as he sat back.

“Gimme that, Pet,” he said lazily, holding out his hand for the scalpel. Xander looked surprised, but handed it over. Without even blinking, Spike cut deeply into the fleshy base of his thumb, holding his hand out. “Quick, Pet, before it heals.”

Xander blinked, hesitating for a brief moment before he took Spike’s hand in his own – Spike could feel the warm fingers shaking slightly. He watched through slitted eyes as Xander raised his hand; then there it was, that first amazing touch of warm lips against his skin, the hot wet flicker of a tongue. He’d expected the grimace that appeared on Xander’s face even before the mortal had the chance to taste, but that expression was quickly replaced by others in rapid succession – surprise, relief, wonder, then hot greedy desire, and Spike shivered as he felt Xander draw on the wound, tentatively at first, then harder.

He didn’t take much, no more than a mouthful, which neither surprised nor dismayed Spike; the cut was small and would close up before Xander swallowed any appreciable amount anyway. Spike hadn’t drunk much either. It was the gesture that mattered right now, the acknowledgement.

Xander apparently understood, because when the cut closed, he gave the skin a gentle kiss, then went straight into Spike’s arms. Spike held Xander close, listening contentedly to the steady lub-dub of his mortal’s heartbeat. Under other circumstances, such an exchange would be a passionate thing, quenching one desire and igniting another, but not now. They’d both just been given a lot to absorb.

“They’ll be waiting for us,” Xander said, breaking into Spike’s revery.

“They who? Oh, bloody hell,” Spike groaned, remembering.

“Buffy & Co.,” Xander sighed. “Remember? Going to head out tonight to kill the hydra you already killed.”

Spike snorted.

“Suppose we should call ‘em and tell ‘em they might as well stay in and order pizza?” he smirked.

“Not unless you want another garlic facial,” Xander chuckled.

Spike sighed.

“Don’t imagine you’d rather just stay here and fool around?” he said hopefully.

Xander grimaced.

“Muchly,” he admitted. “But we’ve hardly seen everybody in the last couple of weeks. If we don’t show up, they’re going to start wondering.”

Spike sighed again, but he released Xander resignedly.

“Guess I’d better clean up, then,” he said unhappily. “Going to have to go shopping soon, Pet. I’m going through shirts and jeans bloody fast nowadays.”

“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” Xander said speculatively. “We could go tomorrow night if you want.” He hesitated. “I’ll let you pick stuff out for me, how’s that?”

Spike perked up at the thought of his Xander wearing something other than those hideous mum’s-boy disasters he called clothing. All right, so he’d have to buy a little goodwill with another nasty evening with the Scooby Gang. He’d weathered worse in his life. At least they’d be out chasing down an already-dead hydra instead of cooped up at Giles’ house. Who knew, maybe they’d stumble across something to kill.

In fact, however, the evening turned rather exciting, due to an unexpected fight with a pack of ghouls welling up from a broken-down crypt in the cemetery. Ghouls were slow-moving and stupid, not horribly dangerous although their bite was notoriously filthy, but they were rubbery and tough and hard as hell to kill – they either had to be beheaded or burned or pretty much cut in two at the waist – and a pack of them was a lot more troublesome than a single ghoul or two. Fighting them and chasing down the stragglers took up most of the rest of the night, and although Giles was worried about what might have driven the ghouls aboveground, nobody was ready to investigate the crumbling hole at the bottom of the crypt from which they’d emerged. Nobody even gave more than a weary sigh of relief when they found the hydra already dispatched, although Buffy managed one suspicious glance at Spike, who did his level best to look innocent. They all returned to Giles’ briefly to scrupulously disinfect any ghoul bites or scratches, then split up to stagger home in the dim predawn light.

Spike was glad the next day was a day off for Xander; between getting up early for his construction job, trying to spend some time with Spike, and fighting whatever nasties they encountered on what Spike cheerfully called his grocery shopping for blood, the mortal was short on sleep already. Spike, too, had been fighting his natural sleep schedule, trying to sleep at night when Xander slept in order to maximize their waking time together. But tomorrow – today, rather – was Saturday. They’d both sleep all day, then brave a hazard worse than Sunnydale’s cemetery.

The shopping mall.

Spike gave a little shiver, curled tightly around Xander, and wearily closed his eyes.



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